I’ve been meaning to share some thoughts on regulating Airbnb for a couple of months now but kept putting it off. The recent news was motivating enough for me to finish it off.
I’m a huge fan of Airbnb and it’s my first step whenever I’m traveling. Nearly all my experiences have been great and I’m contemplating getting rid of my Starwood card since it’s just not as useful anymore given that I gravitate towards Airbnb first. At the same time I understand the impact renting a place Airbnb has on the neighbors and can imagine myself hating it if my neighbors were listing their places.
The challenge is that the host is benefiting while passing the cost to someone else. The host is able to get above market rent while the neighbors have to deal with the potential noise and the risk, albeit a low one, of a stranger. The obvious solution seems to come up with a new zone category between residential and hotel commercial that Airbnb as well as other home rental places would be able to fit in. These locations can then be rented out with the city’s blessing as well as contribute to the tax revenue of the city. This relies on the market to come up with a fair price for the location. If you’re interested in renting a place on Airbnb you should be willing to pay more for the property and if you decide you’ll never be renting your place on Airbnb you should have neighbors that share the same belief.
I don’t have much knowledge on zoning laws and what goes into it but this feels like a solution that should work once in place. Getting there is the hard part - what happens to buildings where half the tenants want their units to be Airbnb eligible and half don’t? Who ends up having the final say? Maybe the solution would be to keep existing places the way they are and make sure new construction goes through this zoning process. This will ensure that over time more and more buildings have a clear definition of rental eligibility.